The ecoartspace blog will feature artist profiles and reviews of exhibitions, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that artists are making in collaboration with scientists, and poetics including spoken word, opera, and performative work. Painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing, and printmaking are all welcome media. Speculative architecture and public art are also encourage. Submissions for posts can be sent to We look forward to hearing from you!

You can access the previous ecoartspace blog HERE (2008-2019)

ecoartspace, LLC

Mailing address: PO Box 5211 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
  • Monday, February 27, 2023 12:13 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    February 27, 2023

    This week we recognize Gene A. Felice II  Gene A. Felice II, and his twenty year hybrid practice focused on collaboration at the intersection of nature and technology.

    FLOW, 2017, (above) was a multi-media evening of water themed light and projection during the annual Spring tour of the Thomas Hill Standpipe, a 1.5 million gallon water storage for fire fighting, situated in downtown Bangor, Maine. Sound and moving imagery inspired by the rich history and daily functions of this unique riveted wrought iron tank with a wood frame jacket, at 50 feet high and 75 feet in diameter, represents the incredible diversity of life that depends on water ecosystems. Collaborators on the work included faculty and students from The Coaction Lab at the University of Maine, in partnership with the Intermedia MFA program, the New Media Department, and the Bangor Water District.

    click images for more info

    Visitors to Oceanic Scales, 2015 - ongoing, (above) explore their role in maintaining a stable ocean ecology through a multi-sensory, interactive art and science puzzle inspired by the microorganisms of the sea. Light, scent, sound and touch inspire new ways of thinking about ocean health while exploring the visualization and contextualization of ocean sensor data into a creative digital output, streamed from the MBARI Elkhorn Slough sensor array API located in the Monterey bay on the California central coast.

    Above is an early 3D test print from a collaboration with Columban de Vargas, Research Director at the CNRS France, and leader of the EPEP – Evolution of Pelagic Ecosystems & Protists – team at the Station Biologique de Roscoff. Felice has been taking high resolution 3D scans of microscopic phytoplankton, hollowing them and creating scientific manipulative that can be opened so that students can examine their interior cellular components. The blue prints are early tests done on my Ultimaker 2 PLA filament based printer, printed at 60 microns resolution. The clear prints were done on our new Form Labs Form 1 SLA printer at the IMRC, with a much higher 25 micron resolution and very nice transparency / durability factors. The next steps are to print the interior components and the other half of the outer shell, as well as finalizing connector mechanisms that allow the two halves to join together and pull apart when needed. 

    Ebb & Flow, 2019, (above) was a three week summer research and performance trip taken with the Mobile Coaction Lab (MCL) from Wilmington, North Carolina to Santa Barbara, California and points between.The Labcollects, visualizes and sonifies local water data and shares it through outdoor, multi-media, video projection mapping and light and sound based digital storytelling events. MCL at the University of North Carolina Wilmington together with Open Lab Research at the University of California Santa Cruz, collaborated with Maine artist and wooden boat builder, Reed Hayden at the University of Maine to create the lab, constructed using a combination of wooden boat building and digital fabrication techniques, designed to house an array of art and science tools.

    The exhibition titled CONFLUENCE (below) was presented at the Cameron Art Museum in 2021, by the collaborative Algae Society, which Felice co-founded with Jennifer Parker at UCSC / Openlab that has several members, both artists and scientists. The works showcased a variety of media formats, time & magnification scales, and creative approaches to being with algae as a multi-sensory art & science (media art & culture) experience. Included were growing algal portraits in a Bio Art lab, VR worldmaking experiences, biodegradable 3D printed sculptures, immersive video & sound works, seaweed pressings, 19th century botanical illustrations, a floating island ecosystem, and more. Visitors of all ages were invited to get to know algae, from the microscopic scales of phytoplankton – to the giant kelp of the Pacific Northwest. The exhibition is currently available to travel. 

    Gene A. Felice II           bridges his creative practice across art, science, education and design, developing a sustainable network of innovation, living systems, and emerging technologies. His hybrid practice grows at the intersection of nature and technology, developing coactive systems as arts science research. His interdependent systems of hardware and software translate research into interactive, multi-sensory puzzles, exploring both passive and active modes of interaction, providing multiple ways for the audience to engage with the work. Video and animated imagery displayed via projection mapping / shared VR, transform two-dimensional surfaces into three-dimensional storytelling systems. Throughout his creative process, emerging technologies such as 3D printing, laser cutting & CNC milling hybridize with older methods such as wood fabrication, lost wax bronze casting, ceramics, glass casting and more. While keeping site specific histories in mind, he achieves confluence by merging these varied passions into a system of creative collaboration. Felice is an assistant professor in Digital Art within the department of Art & Art History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where he is developing the Coaction Lab for interdisciplinary collaboration. His work has been featured nationally at the Cameron Art Museum, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, internationally at Sussex University in the UK, at ISEA Hong Kong and as a 2018 American Arts Incubator / State Dept. funded exchange artist based in Alexandria Egypt.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Gene Felice, FLOW, 2017 - ongoing,multi-media evening of water themed light and projection, Bangor, Maine, and following at Fort Knox Intercreate International SCANZ Biennial, and in Wilmington, North Carolina as FlowILM for Earth Day 2019-2023; Oceanic Scales, 2015 - ongoing, California Academy of Sciences & Alterspace in San Francisco; high resolution 3D scans of microscopic phytoplankton in development; Ebb and Flow, 2019, cross country research excursion with the Mobile Coaction lab (MCL), 2017 - ongoing; CONFLUENCE, 2021, exhibition at the Cameron Art Museum, North Carolina; portrait of the artist.

  • Sunday, February 26, 2023 1:44 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Trees, Humanity, and Reaching for the Light

    Feb 14th 2023

    BY Rebecca Senf for

    One day in 1981, photographer David Paul Bayles was rushing through Santa Barbara, California, to pick up film for a job when he noticed a tree.

    Tree and Three Windows, 1981, from the series Urban Forest
    Santa Barbara, CA

    The recent photography graduate from Brooks Institute of Photography was struck by the relationship of the tree to three curtained windows, lit from inside. The juxtaposition of the sinuous trunk, elegantly branching into a dark mass of leaves, with the geometry of the building’s linear bricks signaled something to the photographer. There was rhythm, pattern, contrast, and tension, but also, there was something elemental about the proximity and interaction between nature, symbolized by this lone and beautiful tree, and the presence of humanity in the form of a background-filling building, a massive dominating structure.

    Bayles felt the photo’s exploration of this relationship between humanity and trees had potential as an ongoing area of study. He continued to make these urban forest pictures as they appeared to him, and eventually, the work gained the notice of journalists, gallerists, and publishers. Over many years, his work on the subject garnered articles, exhibitions, and, ultimately, a 2003 book published by the Sierra Club called Urban Forest: Images of Trees in the Human Landscape. That human-tree connection remains a central theme in his work today, including a recent and ongoing project on wildfires and forest recovery, as well as the upcoming publication of Sap In Their Veins, a photography book featuring intimate portraits of loggers and their work among the trees.

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  • Saturday, February 25, 2023 3:39 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Angela Manno, “Apis, the Honey Bee” (2016) and “Pangolin” (2021), egg tempera and gold leaf on wood (all images © and courtesy Angela Manno)

    The Artist Painting Icons of Earth’s Endangered Species

    While the human cannot make a blade of grass, there is liable not to be a blade of grass unless it is accepted, protected and fostered by the human. — Thomas Berry

    Angela Manno applies her knowledge of Byzantine iconography to memorialize the fauna and flora whose days are threatened or already past.

    Sarah Rose Sharp for Hyperallergic

    February 16, 2023

    In each of her emails, beneath the sign-off, Angela Manno includes a quote from Thomas Berry’s The Determining Features of Ecozoic Era (1998), whose premise is that Earth “can survive only in its integral functioning.” Manno is one of many artists who feel increasingly called to centralize issues of ecology within their practice, an aim perhaps best expressed in her ongoing series Contemporary Icons of Threatened and Endangered Species, which merges the beauty of biodiversity with the horrors of its impending loss.

    “Art and activism are my dual callings and for some time, I longed to bring them both together,” Manno told Hyperallergic. Combining her training in traditional Byzantine Russian iconography and experience in environmental organizing, the artist creates “icons” dedicated to fauna and flora whose days on Earth are threatened or already past.

    Angela Manno, “Apis, the Honey Bee” (2016) and “Pangolin” (2021), egg tempera and gold leaf on wood (all images © and courtesy Angela Manno)

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  • Monday, February 20, 2023 9:57 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    February 20, 2023

    This week we recognize    Cynthia Hooper   Cynthia Hooper, and her twenty plus year practice as a painter and research-based video artist located in Northern California.

    Her early paintings (example above) from the mid to late 1990s, document the timber industry and related infrastructure in Humboldt County, California. This region's monumental log decks were once a ubiquitous sight—grand and metaphorical Ziggurats honoring the gods of progress and profit. Because of the depletion of historical timber stock (along with increased regulation and unpredictable cycles of market demand) far fewer of these iconic monuments are still around, though this industry remains regionally and internationally significant.

    click images for more info

    Transnational Water: The Cienega de Santa Clara and the Mode, featured above, is an example of Hooper's essays/paintings describing anthropogenic wetlands in Mexico's Colorado River Delta and the wetlands' complex relationship with U.S. political and environmental policy. It is one of three panels presented for the exhibition Shifting Baselines, presented at the Santa Fe Art Institute made during the artists' residency and exhibition in 2012.

    A Negotiable Utopia: The Humboldt Bay Project, 2015 (above), is an interdisciplinary media project featuring six short observational documentary videos and accompanying essays that examine and interpret the built environment of Humboldt Bay—California's second largest estuary. This project investigates the bay's natural resource economy and infrastructure (including timber, fishing, and aquaculture), its transportation (including roads, rails, and ships), as well as the bay's power infrastructure—including formerly nuclear, fossil fuel, and renewable energy. The project also documents Humboldt Bay's natural and municipal watersheds, as well as its varied conservation zones and complicated shoreline. Each video features atypical and unexpectedly graceful views of the bay, and each accompanying essay includes evidence-based narratives that honor the diversity of perspectives and experiences that index these compelling environments.

    Humedales Artificiales: Three Transnational Wetlands, 2012, is the title of a video and essay media publication about the anthropogenic wetlands of the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. In the video (above), Las Arenitas is an anthropogenic site and represents a highly successful and collaborative remedy for two big borderland challenges: wetland restoration and municipal infrastructure improvement. Municipal effluent from the Baja California city of Mexicali meanders through a maze of treatment wetlands that also support thousands of local and migratory birds. After helping the local environment, this repurposed water sometimes makes it way to the Gulf of California, thereby re-connecting the Colorado River by way of the sinks and toilets of 300,000 people.

    Westlands, 2011 (below), is a two-channel video installation about The Westlands water district in California's San Joaquin Valley, which is undisputedly the largest and most powerful water district in the nation. This agricultural district's outsized and highly mechanized operations grow billions of pounds of tomatoes, almonds, pistachios, wheat and cotton for the global market each year. Westlands also has the country's highest poverty rate, lowest education levels, intractable pollution and tainted water. The story of this place typifies well-intentioned Federal policy gone awry: subsidies historically devised to foster a sustainable agrarian economy for the many now promote concentrations of power and profit for the few. Despite all these troubling metrics, however, the sweeping panoramas of efficiency and servitude that define this site as a phenomenological experience often complicate predictable assumptions about it. The subtle and grandiose visual metaphors found here possess undeniable political agency, but also a capacious poetry as well.


    Cynthia Hooper          makes paintings, research-based videos and essays that examine and interpret infrastructural landscapes in the United States and Mexico. Her detailed investigations patiently capture the incidental and emblematic activities that define these complicated places, and advocate for the regional laborers, activists, and researchers who tactically refashion their complex geography. Her generously observational strategies and evidence-based narratives honor the diversity of perspectives that index the sites that she studies. Hooper has worked with Tijuana's complex urban infrastructure, politicized water issues along the U.S./Mexico border, and water, power, industrial and agricultural sites in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Ohio. Recent sites examined include the reconfigured wildlife refuges of California’s Central Valley, the artificial wetlands of Mexico's Colorado River Delta, and the built environment of California's Humboldt Bay. Exhibitions and screenings include the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, the Centro Cultural Tijuana, Santa Fe Art Institute, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, and MASS MoCA. Published work includes Places Journal and Arid: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology. Residencies and grants include the Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Gunk Foundation. She lives in Northern California.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Cynthia Hooper, Eel River Log Deck, 1995, oil on canvas, 30 x 42 inches; Transnational Water, 2011-2012, watercolor and gouache with essays on paper, 18 x 24 inches; A Negotiable Utopia: The Humboldt Bay Project, 2015, videos and essays; Humedales Artificiales: Three Transnational Wetlands, 2012; Westlands, 2011, two-channel video installation, 6.5 minutes running time; portrait of the artist by Jesse Wiedel.

  • Monday, February 13, 2023 10:32 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    February 13, 2023

    This week we recognize  Perri Lynch Howard, and her twenty plus year practice in public art and acoustic installations.

    Floating Datum: Fixed Grid, 2005 (above), an outdoor site-specific work, created an interstitial relationship between the natural rhythms of Pritchard Park, a 50-acre former Superfund environmental cleanup site on the shore of Bainbridge Island's Eagle Harbor in Washington State, and mankind’s systematic tendencies towards land use. Installed for three months, the work utilized 100% recycled materials and was designed to welcome the community back to a section of beach previously closed due to high toxicity. The poles reflect our human tendency to map and monitor and the wind sensors remind us to look and feel. Howard worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council. The site was also a former creosote factory.

    click images for more info

    At Ease, 2008-2011 (above), was a temporary public art project sited at Warren G. Magnuson Park in Seattle, Washington. Located at the primary threshold between the park and surrounding neighborhood, the work transformed a neglected, empty, and vandalized guard shack into a symbol of Magnuson’s military past, and transitional present, and the ongoing commitment to balance human wants and environmental needs. Howard used vinyl graphics and lit the structure from within. Project partners were Seattle Parks & Recreation, 4 Culture and Rainier Industries.

    Working from audio archives at Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Howard created a compilation of signature hydrophone whale recordings from expeditions led by Dr. Roger Payne, its founder, along with colleagues dating back to 1967. Visitors entered the Ocean Alliance headquarters library, where the collection of reel-to-reels are archived, and the gallery where the artists’ sound works echoed through the space via a 4-channel speaker system while immersed in hanging textile scrolls (above), each printed with spectrogram imagery that visualize the recordings. The installation, titled Once Upon a Whale Song, was created in 2022.

    A Gathering Storm, 2021 (below), included photography and photogravure, images of harbor defenses sited near the coastal waters of Puget Sound, Washington, along with field sound recordings. Fort Worden, Fort Casey, and Fort Flagler are just three of over seventy-five coastal forts that protect our harbors, cities, and waterways in the United States. Many of these emplacements are on the front lines of climate change, but were never designed to face this sort of surge. This work harnesses the power of sound to tell the little-known story of Coastal Defenses in the United States, their stalwart past, and present day vulnerabilities.

    The work evolves in series, sharing a common theme and employing a wide range of media; from painting and printmaking to drawing and collage. Subtle qualities of landscape are combined with symbols, maps, and icons to convey the complexity of real-world experience, relating to the ‘there-ness’ of everything.” perri lynch howard

    Frequencies: Standing Watch, 2022 (below), is a painting from Howard's Frequencies’ series, which was inspired by extreme environments where sea meets shore and land meets sky. The work explores patterns of light and sound traveling over, under, and through the landscape, shaping our sense of place.

    Perri Lynch Howard is an artist dedicated to forging new narratives from the front lines of climate change. Working in the context of extreme environments is an essential aspect of Ms. Howard’s practice, driving her curiosity to seek a deeper sense of place, beyond the dichotomy of near and far. Her artwork is a charting or mapping of sites and situations expressed through painting, drawing, sculpture and sound. Originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, Howard received her BA from The Evergreen State College, BFA from the University of Washington, and MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work is represented by the Seattle Art Museum Gallery. She has recently completed afield recording expedition to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, investigating the impacts of anthropogenic marine noise on whales and arctic sea life. This work was funded by the McMillen Foundation. Her projects have received support from numerous residencies and fellowships including the Montello Foundation, Civita Institute, Willapa Bay AiR, PLAYA, Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts, Jack Straw Artist Support Program, Centrum Foundation, and the Mamori Sound Project, among others. Howards’s art has a global reach through projects completed in Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, and in South India as a Fulbright Scholar.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Perri Lynch Howard,Floating Datum: Fixed Grid, 2005, Spinnaker cloth, aluminum supports, PVC pipes, 10 x 60 x 60 feet, Pritchard Park, Brainbridge Island, Washington; At Ease, 2008, vinyl graphic on existing structure, lighting from within, commissioned by Seattle Parks & Recreation, located at Warren G. Magnuson Park, Seattle, Washington; Once Upon a Whale Song, 2022, textile scrolls and sound, installation at Ocean Alliance, Gloucester, Massachusetts; A Gathering Storm, 2021, photography, photogravure, and sound; Frequencies: Standing Watch, 2022, painting with sound, 48 x 30 inches; self portrait of the artist.

  • Saturday, February 11, 2023 7:58 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Walking Away (Water Ceremony), 2022, still from video, print on metal

    Kimberlee Koym-Murteira

    Nov 29, 2022

    Interview conducted by Kate Mothes for

    Kimberlee Koym-Murteira is an Oakland-based multimedia artist who centres her practice on ideas of embodiment and physical presence in the world. Relationships between ourselves and nature, the space around us, the time of day, momentous events, and the seasons are captured in a range of video, sculpture, dance, installation, and music. She often collaborates with artists and performers who focus on meditation and healing practices, and as a teacher, works with students to envision ways that art can translate physical, emotional, and spiritual experience into new ways of seeing. Independent curator and WTM mentor Kate Mothes met with Koym-Murteira in November on Zoom to discuss ideas around perception, presence, memory, and her most recent project Unseen to Seen, which collaboratively explored responses to the pandemic.

    Kate Mothes: There's a lot of research that goes into your work. And probably, I'm assuming from teaching, there's an element of constantly gleaning information as you’re working with students.

    Kimberlee Koym-Murteira: I actually did a lot of the [plaster] casting and different things with students for the Unseen to Seen project. So that was a chance to break my practice into my teaching, which I've been trying to do more and more.

    The framework [of my practice] is really the idea of embodiment, like, how are we physically present? That arches over like everything. In our emails, you were asking about the perception. And perception is actually like an embodiment tool. I really think that a lot of us become artists because we need a meditation system. And art, for me, it's like a moving meditation system.

    Anyway, I got to teach this embodiment art class and did some of the practices that I’d just done by myself, but with a larger group. So I see that's kind of a thing that I would like my practice to grow into: getting to do kind of social art practice with larger groups, like doing body-casting or different embodiment practices. That's all very art-related. You know, ‘Is that embodiment?’

    Shadow Gesture, 2022, interactive projection

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  • Saturday, February 11, 2023 7:56 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    © David Paul Bayles and Frederick J Swanson, Standing, Still. #3, 2020

    David Paul Bayles and Frederick J. Swanson: Following Fire: A Resilient Forest, An Uncertain Future by Linda Alterwitz

    January 17, 2023 for Lenscratch

    In the series Following Fire: A Resilient Forest/ An Uncertain Future, (2020 – present) photographer David Paul Bayles and scientist Frederick J. Swanson collaborate to explore post-fire landscape. The photographs by Bayles and text by Swanson contribute to their investigations of forest resilience in the face of increasing challenges and environmental uncertainties. By sharing this series of photographs, they add to the education, appreciation, and future of the forests.

    This Following Fire project is part of long-term ecological inquiry based at the nearby H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest program where studies have been underway for 75 years, and experiments have design-lives of 200 years. In this spirit they intend to pass on the project, and even the photography equipment, to the next generations of photographer-scientist teams.

    1_Forged by Wind and Heat

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  • Monday, February 06, 2023 11:42 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    February 6, 2023

    This week we recognize  Babs Reingold, and her focus on our human tendencies for self-destruction.

    "My works dealing with the environment began with the destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina. A bit after, I heard Jared Diamond’s illustrious portrayal of the Easter Island self-devastation through deforestation. These cases brought to fore the inherent greed that exists in all societies, an avarice that damages societies, or in some cases becomes the ultimate demise of insular civilizations. In a catchphrase, self-absorption transforms to self-destruction. It is this thinking—survival versus extinction—that has nurtured my objects and installations for the past 15 years or so. I question at what point do we recognize and act upon our self-destruction?"

    click images for more info

    "The investigation of unusual materials is just as significant in this process. It is the tangible handling and manipulation of substances to form new stories for an object. I’m attracted to materials that have a history specific to experiences of a life before I discover them. Objects have a memory through their original use, but can continue to form new memories once transformed. It is a form of up-cycling too. They have included doors, windows, drawers, leather gloves, stones, sand, tree branches, plastic trash, human hair, and on-and-on.
    Silk organza is another favored material. Scarred and stitched textures, transformed from the fabric I stain, metaphorically mimic surfaces, whether ours or in nature. They contribute to the effort to re-contextualize my sculptures and installations and impart a new role."

    "Time is still another factor. The two-plus years in the making of the first large installation about the environment, “The Last Tree,” speaks to the physical manifestation of time, and in itself rewards the effort."

    "Trees, for me are awe-inspiring. They are obviously environmental with a recorded twenty-two benefits, with global air quality and climate change as two of the vital ones. Tree markers, as well, are crucial —trunk scars and burns and tree-ring dating provide a climate history for each yearly ring. They speak of a life, of a existence not distant from our own, affected by elements beyond their and our control — drought, fire, disease and of course, humans."

    "Hair is another significant signature in my work. Its intrinsic links to DNA and its endearing symbolism loom large in the art. Stained organza is stuffed with human hair to form trees, roots, stumps, ladders and animals in the installations and are a symbiotic link to hair living beyond death. Hair remains a collective binder for mortality. As an artist, I want to provoke the viewer emotionally and viscerally. I ask: “How do I present the complexity and seriousness of complex environmental issues to motivate recognition and action?”

    Babs Reingold is a Venezuela-born American artist who creates sculptures, drawings and installations, focusing on the environment, poverty and beauty. She has an extensive history exhibiting in solo and group exhibits in galleries and museums from New York to Los Angeles and internationally. Recent exhibits include "Lost Trees" a solo installation at HCC Gallery 221 Tampa FL  •  Address: Earth – Hudson Valley MOCA Peekskill NY Water Over the Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes – Morean Art Center • Planet Ax4+1 – David & Schweitzer Gallery Brooklyn NY • Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration – St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. Her installation, The Last Tree a solo exhibit had a six-month run at Burchfield Penney Art Center Buffalo NY. It had debuted earlier at the ISE Cultural Foundation in SOHO NY. Reingold has a MFA SUNY-Buffalo and BFA Cleveland Institute of Art. Her primary studio is in St Petersburg, Floria with viewing space in New York City.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Babs Reingold, The Last Tree, Burchfield Penney Art Center, 2016-2017, silk Organza, rust, tea, human hair, encaustic, string, thread, yarn, 194 pails, video with music soundtrack by Lin Culbertson, approximately 25 x 40 x 14 feet; The Last Sea, 2018, Wood boat coated with paper mache and modeling paste, graphite, rust and tea stained. Animals: rust and tea stained silk organza stuffed with human hair, cheesecloth, leather, thread, yarns, nails, rusted chain, and used plastic debris, approximately 144w x 36h x 168L inches; Lost Trees, 2022, Silk organza, cotton organza, yarn, thread, graphite on panel prepared with modeling paste, wood stumps and branches, old pails, upcycled cast paper bricks from junk mail and old files, drawings on paper and panel, approximately 32 x 26 feet; Hair Nest (left to right) ’01” 2020, Hair Nest ’16” 2018-2020, Hair Nest ’15” 2019; Last Sea: Diorama, 2020, Wood boat, paddles and windows, rust/tea-stained silk organza, cheesecloth, thread, yarn, string, rusted chain, old nails, miniature plastic bottles, tree branches, marble stones, beach sand, Giclee prints of monotypes, 20 x 16 x 14 inches; Portrait of the artist by Grace Roselli, Pandora's BoxX Project.

  • Wednesday, February 01, 2023 2:26 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    (Salvia Divinorum 2 Enhanced, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    Unfolding Knowledge, One Leaf at a Time:
    Science meets Art and Activism in Pflugheber and White’s Microcosms Project

    Interview by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

    Jill Pflugheber and Steven White have created layers of fascination, activism, and learning through their visually stunning Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas ( A sparkling example of the intersection between arts and sciences, Steven and Jill use microscopy to reveal the innerworkings of sacred plants to the Americas. By promoting indigenous knowledge bases within both artistic and scientific academic disciplines, they are supporting a vital and much overdue spotlight on some of the most important information about the very ground we live on and the people who spent thousands of years learning from and about it. Their work was featured at the Chamanismo (Shamanism) exhibition held at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino in Santiago, Chile in 2022.

    (Datura Innoxia, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    Jill and Steven, these images are enrapturing. Microcosms is not only beautiful, but also scientific. Can you specify what the color microscopy is depicting here (cholorphyll, proteins, stomata, etc.)? What have you learned about both the plants and their visual properties in this process?

    These confocal images were acquired by scanning the plant (leaves or flowers mostly) with three lasers. The plants were not labeled with any dyes or stains, so the only fluorescence (blue, green or red) we see is from components of the plant that will fluoresce under these light conditions. This means it is not possible to delineate exactly what structure is what color. Additionally, there may be a variety of molecules excited by the same laser line—so multiple structures may emit the same color. A single structure or molecule may excite/emit more than one color at a time, giving a range from purple to yellows. Chlorophyll is most often green but can be blue as well. Stomata often have blue guard cells, and these cells may have different colored proteins within them. Xylem is often green. Terpenes may be any color, depending on the terpene, and so on. Open stomata, closed stomata; terpenes traveling down trichomes; pollen at various stages of maturation. We are visualizing not just structure, but function as well.

    (Brugmansia spp., Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    That is amazing! The structures that are revealed are enthralling and beautiful. It is incredible to see the actual functioning of the plant in visual form. And your interest in the function of the plants goes beyond aesthetics. How have you approached choosing your specimen?

    We conceived our work in Microcosms as a double homage to the sacred plants of the American continent (with its immense geographical diversity that includes both deserts and rainforests) and also to the indigenous knowledge holders who have safeguarded the stories that the plants tell.  The idea of “sacredness” can be difficult to define. Shouldn’t all plants and all life in its tremendous, though ever-diminishing, diversity be considered sacred? Of course. But certain species, for different reasons, are more culturally significant than others, as many readers of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass have discovered. Microcosms selectively highlights a significant, though still relatively small, number of plants forming a spiritual pact that ensures the wellbeing and survival of all species. Using a term that is part of his Rarámuri (Tarahumara) heritage, Enrique Salmón explains the importance of iwígara in the introduction to Iwígara, the Kinship of Plants and People: American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science: “In a worldview based on iwígara, humans are no more important to the natural world than any other form of life. This notion influences how I lead my own life and guides many of my decisions. Knowing that I am related to everything around me and share breath with all living things helps me to focus on my responsibility to honor all forms of life.” We learned a great deal by researching the plants for Microcosms and also by taking care of them, in their complete cycles from germination to flowering.  

    (Datura Innoxia, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    When you describe caring for these plants during their complete cycles, it reminds me of rituals and goals of some interspecies collaboration projects. Currently, more and more research is coming to light about the intersection of hallucinogens and psychological healing as well. How do these properties intersect for you within this realm of science, native histories and contemporary healing?

    It’s certainly true that often the revered plants that appear in Microcosms are psychoactive. The two authors of Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers (1998) discuss why these special vegetal entities are so important.  According to the great Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann (the Swiss scientist who was the first to synthesize LSD): “Plants that alter the normal functions of the mind and body have always been considered by peoples of nonindustrial societies as sacred, and the hallucinogens have been plants of the gods par excellence […] It is in the New World that the number and cultural significance of hallucinogenic plants are overwhelming, dominating every phase of life among the aboriginal peoples.” The slightly bigger picture with regard to Microcosms and plants such as tobacco, amaranth, cacao, corn, sweetgrass and others is without a doubt more nuanced and well worth one’s attention. Current scientific research on the so-called natural psychedelics (such as magic mushrooms, the plants that together make ayahuasca, and certain cacti) is demonstrating in definitive ways potential health benefits. Absurdly repressive anti-drug laws around the world will need to change in order to accommodate these new realities. This is happening already. Canada and certain places in the United States such as Oregon, Colorado, and even Washington, D.C. are leading the way toward a more just treatment of plants and substances that will become the future treatments of many debilitating diseases. Perhaps Microcosms can contribute in a small way with other myriad efforts toward the creation of this change of consciousness. 

    (Lophophora Williamsii Peyote, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023 and digital photograph)

    This relates well to where your work is being presented at the Chamanismo (Shamanism) exhibition held at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino in Santiago, Chile. Do you see this as an opportunity to contribute to this change of consciousness?

    Yes, we were so pleased and honored to learn that Constantino Manuel Torres, the curator of the exhibition “Shamanism: Visions Outside of Time,” (open through June 2023) chose some of our confocal images of Anadenanthera colubrina and Trichocereus pachanoi for the show’s catalog and publicity. It was amazing to see a microscopic San Pedro cactus on a gigantic banner hanging from the roof of the museum illuminating a busy city street. As Torres points out in the published catalog text: “From shamanism we can learn how to develop an intimate knowledge of our immediate environment, to view the city and its surroundings as an entity full of patterns that can be traversed and understood. Such knowledge of the urban environment brings with it and demonstrates the interconnectedness of all component elements. Indigenous cultures all over the world over centuries have intelligently developed concepts of what is proper for them and their setting at a moment in time.” These are powerful ideas that can orient our contemporary actions (wherever we live) in conjunction with a respectful understanding of the sacred plants that we have included in Microcosms. 

    (Hierochloe Odorata, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    The theme of interconnectedness is increasingly important as a symbol and as an actualization. Can these images act as metaphors that bridge misinformation in cultural understanding?

    Microcosms is an ecodigital repository of biocultural heritage. As we mention in the introduction to the website, each stoma, each trichome, each patterned fragment of xylem and vascular tissue, as well as each grain of pollen in these vital portraits is not only a way into previously unseen vegetal realms, but also a potential way out of a collective ecological crisis. EcoArtSpace sponsored a really inspiring Tree Talk last October called “Fire Transforms” by curator, teacher and art activist Rina C. Faletti. She’s written a brief commentary on Microcosms, and in it she says: “Going far beyond what might appear to be another illustrative account of the beauty of plant patterns, shapes, and colors at an unseen scale, White and Pflugheber successfully argue not only for the organism as art, but also art as organism. Here the project extends its reach from the patently visual to deeper realities of consciousness, agency, equality of lifeforms.” We fervently hope that Microcosms, while paying tribute to the indigenous stewards who have preserved ancestral plant knowledge over the millennia, serves as a call to urgent, empathic, morally based activism as conservators, creators and informed citizens against the political and economic systems that are so irrevocably harmful to the environment. 

    (Anadenanthera colubrina, Microcosms, color microscopic photograph 2023)

    Thank you for this truly incredible work, Jill & Steven! It has been fantastic to learn from you. 

  • Wednesday, February 01, 2023 9:30 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace February 2023 e-Newsletter for subscribers is here

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